The Wofford Terriers have been ranked all season, reaching a high of No. 4 in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches' poll. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hasn't been ranked and isn't even receiving a vote from the coaches.
Despite the differences in their seasons, Saturday at Wofford's Gibbs Stadium the teams will be playing for the same thing.
"We're playing for a championship; they're playing for a championship. That's all we can control," UTC coach Russ Huesman said Monday.
Georgia Southern has guaranteed itself a share of the Southern Conference title by finishing with a 6-2 record in league play. Wofford (7-2, 5-2), now ranked No. 14, can clinch a share by beating the Mocs.
UTC (5-4, 4-2) can share the title by beating the Terriers and then defeating Elon (3-6, 1-5) at home in their Nov. 17 finale. The Mocs haven't had a Southern Conference football title since 1984.
"I told our guys that the door is still open," Wofford coach Mike Ayers told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. "We've got to prepare and be willing to do everything we can possibly do to get through the door."
Wofford, like UTC, played and beat a Division II team (Lincoln, 82-0) for a win that doesn't count toward playoff eligibility. The Mocs can finish the season winning six of their last seven games but can't get to seven D-I wins.
The Terriers have to beat UTC to get to seven because it's unlikely they will knock off South Carolina next week.
Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, chair of the NCAA selection committee, reiterated Monday the language in the NCAA Division I Championship manual, which reads that "less than seven Division I wins" can put a team in jeopardy of not being selected.
"I do not have knowledge of a six-win team getting [an at-large] bid, but it's not a -- what's the 'Top Gun' analogy? -- hard deck," he said. "It's not a mandatory deal."
He then offered the example of FCS powerhouse Montana, which went 7-4 in 2010 but had only six D-I wins.
"They didn't get a lot of support when their name came up on the board," Cobb said, though the Grizzlies also lost two of their last three games.
When the playoffs expand from 20 to 24 teams next season, Cobb said he'd like to see the criteria drop to six D-I wins, rather than allowing D-II wins to count, to encourage more FCS teams to play quality nonconference opponents.
SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said teams in the league don't typically seek out D-II opponents, but sometimes that's all they can get if they want a fifth or sixth home game. UTC had to add Glenville State as a late replacement for a D-I opponent, while Wofford, which has played a non-Division I team the past three seasons, may have a hard time getting teams to come face its triple-option attack.
"I think most [SoCon programs] would love to have Division I opponents exclusively, and from a conference perspective we would very much support that," Iamarino said, "but there are reasons why it becomes very difficult to schedule them."
The first time a D-II game costs a SoCon team a playoff spot, Iamarino said, will probably put an end to teams scheduling games that don't count.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...